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Author Topic: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.  (Read 527 times)

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Offline KrysiaTopic starter

Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« on: September 24, 2009, 10:35:32 AM »
Ok, Iím not too good with cars and Iím really picky on some things. I like to get several opinions before I make a major decision on anything to do with cars. I have a 2000 Hyundai Accent GL for starters.

So here is the story, last spring my car sat in a garage for 6 months at the mechanics until we had money to pay for her distributor system to be fixed. 6 months after that the Alternator had to be fixed on it, 1200 dollars in 6 months on this car.

Now I get the check engine light coming on, knowing the past experience with the car it means, ďTake me to get fixed or Iíll die right here.Ē The husband and I take her in to get checked out. We find out sensors on the catalytic converter arenít working right. The grade of gas weíre using, which is mixed with 10% ethanol, has the catalytic converter thinking itís not doing its job correctly when the gas goes into it and comes out of it. 

Next problem, the engine has to valves on it that shut when the engine turns off. So that the gas vapors that sit in the engine donít escape. These arenít shutting so itís effectively like me driving around with the gas cap off.

The mechanic cleaned off the sensors and got the check engine light to stay off. I was told to change gas stations to try and find a non-ethanol blend of gas. Easier said then done in this area, all the gas stations have the 10% or 20% blend of gas. If I canít find a place Iíll have to replace the catalytic converter on the car.

Now my question is, because Iím a newbie with cars is: Should I keep the car or should I trade it in for something new? I was told that replacing the converter could cost up to 1000 dollars and the blue book value of the car for its condition is 1000-1500. Iím not sure if I should get the converter replaced and deal with the car or get a new one.

My concern with replacing the converter is would it just break again from the gas blend if the current one doesnít work with the ethanol. Iíd really like to get some other opinions before I just jump into another car payment. I already have one from when my husband totaled his Capris. The payment for the Impala isnít much but weíd be looking at doubling it for another car or higher.

Can anyone help or even suggest a new car model that would replace the Hyundai? Iím willing to go look at these cars and ask questions (tons of questions) before I peg one down. Or even suggestions on what to do to save the old one.

Offline Kurzyk

Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2009, 12:13:59 PM »
I'm far from an expert, but as the car is 10 years old it might be a good idea to start investing in a new one.

It would really help if you had a mechanic you can trust to help you compare prices in your decision. But again, even if it would be cheaper to fix your current car, something else could break down.

Ideally a trusted mechanic could look over the whole car and give an estimate, not only on the current problem but any others, that would help you make the decision.

Offline KrysiaTopic starter

Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2009, 12:30:07 PM »
I sat and talked to the mechanic today when I picked up the car. The problem is with the sensors on the converter. It seems the converter isn't doing it's job because of the grade of gas. It doesn't like the ethanol blend. I have to switch to a gas station that doesn't have the ethanol blend, which there is only 1 or 2 in town. They aren't as cheap as the other stations either.

The mechanic feels that if I've already put 1200 into the car it might be a wise choice to pick up something newer. He also said this could just be dumb luck on the sensor and it might work after they fixed it. So it could be as little as the 100 I spent to get them cleaned or it could be something that cost over 1000 to get the converter completely replaced. Also in saying this he said it might not mean something else would come up in the future.

He said that I can still drive the car with the check engine light on because it wouldn't effect the car in anyway, but when I went to get the emissions inspected next year it would fail the test and I'd wouldn't be able to drive it anymore legally.

He called the Hyundai a disposable car. Something to get you to point A and to point B, but when you start investing in repairs it's time to move on.

My current options for a new vehicle are a Honda Fit, Chevy Cobalt, or a Chevy HHR. Though I think I'm going to learn how to drive a manual so I can save 1000+ on the car.

Offline Serephino

Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2009, 08:40:05 PM »
Honestly, I think the mechanic is trying to screw you.  I admit I don't know that much about cars, but I know a little.  Most cars I've driven had the check engine light on all the time.  They lasted years and always passed inspection.  I was told when it does that there's a glitch in the computer.

I'm trying to remember how a catalytic converter works, and I how can't remember much.  But I don't see how ethanol would affect it and make you fail an inspection.  It's supposed to make gasoline burn cleaner as well as use less oil, and that's what a catalytic converter does too.  And last I knew a converter was around $200.  I know it's been a few years and prices vary between models, but I don't think that much. 

I guess you can call it a mix of a gut feeling and experience with mechanics.  I would get a second opinion. 

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Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2009, 09:00:50 PM »
I turned to my favorite resource (Google) and found out what a catalytic converter does.  http://auto.howstuffworks.com/question66.htm

Basically, it converts the exhaust products from hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides into carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen and oxygen.  I'm guessing this isn't 100% effective, since people still get carbon monoxide poisoning from running cars in closed garages.  As for emissions testing, every one that I've ever gone to puts a little probe in the tail-pipe and lets the engine run a little, which would confirm that the catalytic converter is doing a 'good enough' job.

From what I read, it doesn't sound like the car's computer actually does anything to adjust the functioning of the catalytic converter, but simply gives you a reading from those sensors as to 'how well' it's doing.  EDIT:  PICTURE! 


If crap from the ethanol is getting on the sensors (based on your mechanic 'cleaning off the sensors'), then it might be giving you a faulty reading - but the probe that the emissions guys would be using wouldn't have that accumulation.

*Disclaimer - I am not a mechanic, or even a particularly good chemistry person.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2009, 09:03:06 PM by Oniya »

Offline Kurzyk

Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2009, 12:52:10 AM »
Wow Oniya... impressive!  :-)

Offline Emily Dawn

Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2009, 01:12:30 PM »
My man is a mechanic.  While it is always possible that your mechanic may be trying to screw you as someone said, it's probably unlikely.  First, he suggested getting rid of it which is what any good/honest mechanic would do when a vehicle is costing you more than it is worth.   Second, there are all sorts of scenarios that can cause an engine warning light to come on; some of them won't affect the running of the vehicle, some will.  Depending on what code is set, some can run for the life of the vehicle with the engine light on.  Others, not at all.  Doesn't matter what the make of the vehicle.  What matters is that little bitty code that pops up when it is computer-tested. 

The catalytic converter can not only affect the emissions, it can also affect the performance of the vehicle.  It is very possible that it could effect the outcome of an emissions test i.e. if the converter itself isn't working properly.  The sensor, however, most likely not.  FYI- my man the mechanic says that is one expensive ass converter if it's going to cost you 1k; he hasn't seen any cost any more than $300.  Also, he doesn't recommend throwing money into a car that is worth less.  If you can afford a new one, or a newer used one, that's probably the best way to go.  Yes I trust my mechanic explicitly- I'm married to him!  ;)

Offline KrysiaTopic starter

Re: Car Help, Opinions/Suggestions Needed.
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2009, 03:23:59 AM »
I'd like to thank everyone for the help. I'm still interested in suggestions and help. I have how ever gone out and test drove several vehicles.

Honda Fit


Chevy Cobalt


Chevy HHR


Dodge Caravan


Dodge Calibur


Scion xB Release Edition (In this color)



I've read reviews on the Chevy Aveo and Cobalt. So far it's leaning towards the Cobalt. It's a bit more expensive then the Aveo but it's more like the Hyundai in feel and interior. Only thing is the Cobalt has more get up and go, which in this area you need for hills and the interstate. Also it will have cruise control for my little lead foot to stop speeding. xD